jay linden

There are as many sources of inspiration for a song as there are songs themselves.

It’s especially admirable when a songwriter can take a difficult time in their life and translate it into something we can all relate to and connect with.

A case in point is 'At the End of the Line’ from Cambridge, ON singer-songwriter Jay Linden’s new album, Ordinary Sunrise.

The song was inspired by the passing of Jay’s brother Lee in 2018.

“When we lost our brother, a song [idea] immediately dropped into my head,” he said.

But as so many songwriters know, once you get that first inspiration, the real work begins.

“I was having a ridiculously tough time trying to actually turn it into a song,” Jay said.

Complicating matters was the fact Jay had only written a few songs in the previous seven or eight years, so he was kind of out of practice.

He tried writing in different places than he was used to, he consulted fellow songwriters and even enrolled in online songwriting courses and workshops, all in an effort to get the creative juices flowing.

“This was something I’d never done before,” he said.

“I’m pretty much self-taught. But it meant a lot to me to finish the song because it was an evocation of what I felt when we lost our brother.”

Knowing Lee had arranged for Medical Assistance In Dying, Jay and his other brother, Colin, flew to Edmonton to join their extended family for Lee’s final moments.

“It was a grieving period and a lot of sadness but there was also a lot of joy and celebration.”

It took a couple of years between inspiration and finished song, but once Jay finally had ‘At The End Of The Line,’ it brought about a flood of new songs.

“The combination of the finished song and me taking online courses sort of re-started my songwriting engine,” Jay said.

One of the most helpful courses was conducted by Lori Yates. Each week participants were given a lyrical cue, which they had to use as the foundation of a new song. The discipline was a great motivating factor for Jay.

“What you don’t expect, but hope for, is that the songs will be good,” he said.

And there’s no guarantee of that happening.

“If you’re me, and you haven’t written anything for a long, long time, you’re badly out of practice and being buffeted about by new and uncomfortable emotions,” he said.

But the songs started coming, and as they came, he recorded demos at home that he sent to Colin Linden in Nashville. As many people know, Colin is an in-demand musician and producer who’s worked with everyone from Bruce Cockburn and Emmylou Harris to Leon Redbone and Bob Dylan. Add in his work on the TV series Nashville for six seasons and his long-time work with Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson in Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and the reality was that Colin could only devote spare moments to working on Jay’s music.

“I sent some songs to Colin, which he liked, and [he] started mixing them. The mixes were coming back better and better. I kept getting more and more layers of goosebumps listening to my songs turning into well-mixed pieces of music.”

In the end, Colin, added his core rhythm section of John Dymond on bass and Gary Craig on drums and some well-known Nashville players to round things out and then had Jay come down to Nashville to put on his vocals and guitar. What with Colin’s schedule, and health issues Jay was dealing with, what began in November of 2021 finished in the late fall of 2023.

The response to Ordinary Sunrise has been very gratifying for Jay with lots of airplay across North America.

“Much to my delight, it’s been on the Top 10 or 20 lists for folk radio,” Jay said.

“The fact I can brag I’m on a list ahead of people like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan doesn’t mean I expect to outsell them, but it’s an overwhelming feeling. It’s a real honour that the people who choose this music for their audiences have seen fit to include mine in the mix.”

At the moment, Jay’s unable to do any touring but he has done a number of live streaming performances which he’ll continue to do.

For more on Jay Linden and Ordinary Sunrise, go to https://jaylinden.bandcamp.com